Manchester United recovered a 1-1 draw at home to West Ham that moved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side into the Premier League top four and saw their opponents safe.
With a result that suited both sides, albeit one that will be celebrated more by the Hammers, United leapfrogged Leicester City – their final-day opponents – as David Moyes’ side pulled four points clear of the relegation zone.
The Old Trafford outfit will clinch Champions League qualification with just a draw at fifth-placed Leicester, although they briefly threatened to follow up their FA Cup exit to Chelsea with another defeat on Wednesday.
Paul Pogba’s foolish handball was punished from the penalty spot by the in-form Michail Antonio, but Mason Greenwood struck six minutes into the second half to take United up to third prior to Chelsea’s clash with Liverpool.
The hosts had enjoyed a lively start as Lukasz Fabianski made low saves from both Anthony Martial and Greenwood by the third minute, yet their momentum soon waned.
After the West Ham goalkeeper then parried a Marcus Rashford drive with relative ease, the breakthrough came at the other end in first-half stoppage time.
Pogba lifted his arms to block Declan Rice’s powerful strike following a free-kick, gifting West Ham a penalty that Antonio tucked away.
But United responded in fine fashion following the restart as an intricate move between Pogba, Martial and Greenwood on the edge of the area ended with the teenager lashing a low finish past Fabianski.
The under-fire David De Gea saved smartly from Jarrod Bowen, before Rice arrowed just wide of the top-right corner, yet United held on for a point that could yet prove pivotal.
They could also have stolen a scarcely deserved victory with five minutes remaining as Odion Ighalo – waiting to break his league duck for United – stabbed wide.
What does it mean? United in the driving seat but Leicester given confidence
United’s last-day visit to Leicester always looked crucial, but Solskjaer’s side can now head to the King Power Stadium knowing they do not even need to win to finish in the top four.
Unbeaten in 13 in the league, this result – albeit just a draw – was far more important than an underwhelming home performance, although Leicester may well feel confident of a win if the Red Devils cannot lift themselves on Sunday.
Mason the man for Man Utd
Like fellow goalscorer Antonio, Greenwood has kicked on since the season’s restart and this might prove to be his most important goal yet.
A first-half effort was blocked by Angelo Ogbonna, but the 18-year-old was unerring when the next chance came his way and now has 17 in all competitions this term, a joint-record among United teenagers.
Pogba’s penalty faux pas
A surprise exclusion from the United team against Chelsea, this was not the return to the XI Pogba would have hoped for.
Having had little impact on the first half, the midfielder bizarrely handled and only made matters worse by apparently feigning a blow to his face as the VAR pored over an error former United captain Gary Neville swiftly described as “embarrassing”.
Key Opta Facts
– Manchester United have won 10 of their 19 home league games this season (D7 L2); only in 2016-17 (eight) and 2013-14 (nine) have they enjoyed fewer home victories in a Premier League campaign.
– West Ham have collected eight points in their last five Premier League games against Manchester United (W2 D2 L1), more than they managed in their previous 18 league encounters (seven points – W1 D4 L13) between May 2008 and August 2017.
– Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are unbeaten in 13 Premier League games (W8 D5), which is now the Norwegian’s best run in the competition with the Red Devils and his best league run in his managerial career with a single club.
– Mason Greenwood; has become the first player to score 10 Premier League goals in a season as a teenager since Romelu Lukaku in 2012-13 (14), and the first English player to do so since Wayne Rooney in 2004-05 (11).
– No teenager has ever scored more goals in a single season in all competitions for Manchester United than Mason Greenwood (17 – level with George Best in 1965-66, Brian Kidd in 1967-68 and Wayne Rooney in 2004-05).
United’s fate is in their own hands at Leicester on Sunday. Meanwhile, West Ham can still impact the relegation battle as they host Aston Villa.